The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life

The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life

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by John "The Penguin" Bingham, Jenny Hadfield, Bingham

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“The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” Take your first step toward fitness and a happier, healthier life.

Has the idea of running crossed your mind, but you haven't acted on it because you don't think you have the body of a runner? Have you thought about running but quit before you started because


“The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” Take your first step toward fitness and a happier, healthier life.

Has the idea of running crossed your mind, but you haven't acted on it because you don't think you have the body of a runner? Have you thought about running but quit before you started because you knew that you would be breathless at the end of your driveway? Well, put aside those fears because you can do it. John Bingham, author of the popular Runner's World column “The Penguin Chronicles,” transformed himself from an overweight couch potato who smoked into a runner who has completed eleven marathons and hundreds of road races.

Forget about the image of a perfect body in skintight clothes, and don't worry about how fast or how far you go. Bingham shows how anyone can embrace running as a life-enhancing activity—rather than as a competition you will never win. In an entertaining blend of his own success story and practical advice, Bingham provides reasonable guidelines for establishing a program of achievable goals; offers tips on clothing, running shoes, and other equipment; and explains how anyone can prepare for and run distances ranging from a few miles to marathons.

After all, in running and in life, the difference between success and failure sometimes comes down to a single step. Waddle on, friends.

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Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction

The real joy begins when we, like that boy, run the bases. The celebration begins when we stop deciding if we are going to run or how we are going to run, and start deciding when we are going to run. The miracle begins by taking the first step.

The Courage to Start shows how, with that first step and with every subsequent step, you can begin to write your own story. It shows how each of us, no matter how ordinary we may seem, is capable of greatness...if we will only risk starting.

What you will read in this book is just about everything I know about running and just about everything I know about myself. It's everything I have learned, everything I have been told, and every discovery I have made. There are no secrets. It is just you and me...and the road that we are on.

That road is not always smooth or flat. There are times when it may seem as though you are running away from who you are much more than running toward who you want to be. There may be times when your body betrays you and your spirit abandons you. The path to enlightenment is not always clearly marked.

But millions of runners have gone before you. Each of them has faced the same fear and uncertainty. Each has learned, as you will, the truth in the Penguin credo. For all of us, the miracle isn't that we finish, the miracle is that we have the courage to start.

Copyright © 1999 by John Bingham

From Chapter One: The Courage to Start

Every January it was the same story. Like so many others I looked to the New Year as the time to start my new life. I started thinking about it in July, of course, but I reasoned that it was better to wait until the New Year to start.

Every year I told myself that this was the year that I was going to change my life. Every year I was filled with hope.

Since I had so many bad habits to choose from — smoking, drinking, overeating, lack of exercise — I usually just picked the one I was most concerned about at the time. Some years I told myself I would stop smoking. Other years I resolved to lose weight. Once or twice I planned to get into shape.

Quitting smoking was easy. No problem. Although I had been a smoker most of my adult life, I still wasn't willing to accept that it was anything more than a bad habit. Addicted? Not me! After all, I had quit twenty or thirty times.

Losing weight was easy, too. I just stopped eating. Or at the very least I stopped eating all the foods I liked to eat and replaced them with foods I couldn't stand putting into my mouth.

I liked losing weight and I got very good at it. Unfortunately, I got even better at putting it back on. When you are carrying sixty, seventy, or eighty pounds more than your ideal weight, you've got plenty to work with. The beauty is, with that many extra pounds, almost any diet works...for a little while.

Losing weight satisfied the martyr in me. During the first few weeks of January, I would allow myself to feel a strange combination of self-pity and self-righteousness. I stood in judgment over those who didn't have the self-control that I had. Like any good martyr, I wore the wounds of self-denial as badges of courage.

I wasn't sure exactly what getting in shape meant, but I was pretty sure it had something to do with having a flat stomach, since everyone I saw who looked fit seemed to have a flat stomach. So all of my getting-in-shape programs began with doing sit-ups.

Once, in my early thirties, I actually tried to become a runner. I had an old friend who had become a marathoner and appeared to be a fairly normal person. He lost weight, looked great, and seemed more content than I had ever known him to be. I figured if he could run marathons, so could I. At the time, I had no idea that there was any other distance for a road race. If you were a runner, I thought, you ran marathons.

For a few painful months I tried to be a marathoner. I didn't read any books or magazines about running before I started. How complicated could running be? I reasoned. How much could there be to know? You just put one foot in front of the other, right?

Of course, none of my "get fit" plans lasted more than a few weeks. They never lasted until the spring thaw. In the course of my lifetime I became very accomplished at one thing though: I became very good at quitting.

Copyright © 1999 by John Bingham

Meet the Author

John Bingham writes "The Penguin Chronicles," a monthly column in Runner's World, maintains a popular Web site, and trains other "slow and steady" runners nationwide. He lives in Tennessee.

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The Courage to Start 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started running after 40+ years of believing that I 'couldn't run.' John Bingham's book has been a tremendous encouragement - as I finish race after race at the back of the pack, I remember that I, too, had the 'courage to start.' Highly recommended as a motivational book, even if you don't plan on running.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
You would think a book on this topic would be very dry and boring, but this book is actually an excellent read. It is filled with great information from training to how to dress. I first borrowed it from the library and now feel it is a must have book for any runner. I know I will go back to it again and again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an awesome book. It got me started on the road to becoming a runner. When I first started I could only run for 2 minutes at a time. One year later I'm entering 5K runs and having a blast! This book motivated me and got me started!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book over a month ago. It has been one that I read in the bath or after a good workout. One that I really enjoyed reading. I found myself crying and laughing, but most of all encouraged. Not just by the words on the page but the honesty and cold lessons John shared. I have only ran for a little over a month. I ran/walked/crawled my first marathon in Dallas this past year and I completely intend to run for the rest of my life. Not for my health or because my running partners want me to but because I never want to be older than I am now. THANK YOU JOHN